Chevrolet by Geoff Wheatley
By Geoff Wheatley
Chevrolet by Geoff Wheatley
Like many readers I am a sucker for Garage Sales. Usually the eventual purchase is not quite what I expected and it's not easy to test a push lawn mower on a concrete drive way. However, in the world of old magazines I usually come out on the right side of the ledger! Obviously any sight of a Motor Publication instantly draws my devoted attention and in consequence, much to my wife's displeasure, I have an increasing pile of magazines that has now flowed over from the garage to various locations throughout our humble abode!
To show that I have a broad range of interests I recently purchased an early edition of the Saturday Evening Post dated December 1923 that featured a full page advertisement for the Chevrolet Motor Car or rather the new range of 1924 Chevrolet vehicles. The principle theme of the advertisement was Value for Money and a reminder that the brand was a product of the mighty General Motors Corporation. Chevrolet boasted five manufacturing plants in the USA and two more in Canada. The advertisement goes on to say that they have the largest production capacity in the world but it's not clear if they are referring to G.M. or to Chevrolet. If the latter I have to wonder what Henry Ford might say about that statement!
The 1924 line up of vehicles is, by any standards impressive. A family roadster priced at $490, on the road. A Superior Touring version for a few bucks more at $498. A top of the line Sedan with seating for five people was offered as the star of the show at $795, with a utility* version at $730. I assume that this was a type of SUV or better known in my day as a Station Wagon. You could also purchase a commercial delivery van for $495 based on the new designed Chevrolet chassis that was also featured for all the 1924 models. The whole presentation is directed at the success of Ford who still held a large share of the private ownership market with a single car that was starting to show its age! The headlines of the advertisement truly show its motive. "CHEVROLET FITS THE FINEST HOMES OR THE MOST MODEST INCOMES". Just to illustrate the social division that they were trying to attract the statement goes on the say..." THOSE OF MORE LIMITED MEANS STILL TAKE PRIDE IN THE OWNERSHIP OF A CHEVROLET THAT HAS BEEN DESIGNED FOR THEIR MARKET" In short even if you do not have the big bucks there is a car for you!
Ford never saw the market in those terms, he made a product that anyone could buy at the right price and if required Ford would finance the purchase. No other US manufacturer offered such a facility and that's why Ford could go on producing the same car year after year and still maintain its sales.
In short why change horses in mid stream when the trusty steed that got you this far could still take you to the other shore.
I suspect that other manufacturers may have used the same social economic division in their advertising but as yet I have not seen and examples. We do know that the expensive vehicles were promoted as part of the "Expensive Life", and this was frequently exploited to create a special market for those who wanted to be seen as wealthy even if they were not!
We are fully aware of such images as the Rolls, Bugatti, Cadillac, Bentley, and Benz. Just to mention a few. Their appeal was created and sustained by the constant promotion of wealth and privilege. So if you wanted to be seen as part of that group your first requirement was an expensive vehicle, even if it was never worth the existing price! If you want a modern version of this simply look at the pop stars whose first purchase is/was, a Rolls Royce or some similar machine.
The promotional theme of Chevrolet in 1925 with its social economic presentation is certainly in line with the much of today's presentations. I guess that the old proverb. "That money talks", is correct, however all it ever seems to say to this scribe is. GOOD-BY. Ask any of your friends why they purchased a luxury car when a no frills inexpensive means of transport would suffice and you will get a wide yet interesting series of answers. Reliability, good service, comfort etc., Few will say, "To keep up my image of being a successful individual" despite the fact that this is often the principle motive.
It's much the same as joining the local Golf Club despite the fact that you have never set foot on a golf course. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with this attitude in fact some would say that it's a healthy indication of an individual's self esteem! My point is simply that in real terms very little in human nature has changed. The motivational theme of Chevrolet in 1924 is based on the same principle as the social situation today. It's also interesting to study the ownership attitude in a situation where the choice of vehicle is limited.
If you had resided behind the Iron Curtain during the cold war your selection of vehicles was limited, make that very limited. You could obtain a "Trabant" or if lucky a "Lada". In the latter you could also have a internal heater and even a radio. However if you wanted these features you could wait another six months before delivery.
Reviews of the day show that
people would wait that long for the
privilege of being warm and listening to
local broadcasts. Furthermore the car
would sport an antenna indicating your
special purchase of a special car! I
have always desired to own a Rolls-
Royce, not because its reliable, or
comfortable, or easy to maintain, in
reality its none of those things and you
would not believe me if I suggested such
a motivation. No it's simple. I would
like to view the rear end of the famous
lady featured on the top of the radiator
whilst in the driving seat, and when I
park outside of Wal-Mart you would
notice that it was there and think what
a successful individual the owner must
The "Utility" label was attached to the 1924 Superior model, "F" Series, or Chevrolet Utility Coupe. Which illustrates its uses of the car. That is for salesmen and businessmen, those in construction work, for physicians, professional men, and for farmers.